THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:05 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Happy Friday, everyone. Welcome to the White House.
Q Do you have any comment on the China decision to sign the nonproliferation treaty?
MR. MCCURRY: We welcome China's apparent willingness to drop its insistence that a comprehensive test ban permit peaceful nuclear explosions. I say at the same time, a great deal of work being done now at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva by the 38 nations that are there attempting to meet the mandate of the international community to complete negotiations on a comprehensive test ban.
There are a number of unresolved issues that still lie ahead of the negotiators related to verification, inspection, other issues that still need to be considered by the conference. The United States remains very determined to push hard to complete the negotiations by the June 28th deadline. There will then be a period in which actual draft instruments would have to be promulgated. That in itself will take a great deal of work, and of course, the deadline set by the U.N. General Assembly for promulgation of the treaty itself is September -- I guess the end of September, end of the current U.N. General Assembly session.
So while we are hopeful that this work will continue to progress, we recognize that there are still unresolved issues and we are determined through our negotiators in Geneva to make progress.
Q Well, you sound skeptical as to whether China will really get on board.
MR. MCCURRY: Not skeptical as to their announcement concerning PNEs yesterday, but I'm pointing out that that does not in and of itself resolve all the issues that will be necessary for completion of a comprehensive test ban treaty. So there is still work that lies ahead. This, of course, could have been a major roadblock to completion of the treaty, but the United States will remain working hard on the completion of the actual text of the treaty itself.
Q Does this signal from them move you any closer to announcing the Tony Lake mission? When do you expect to have a date?
MR. MCCURRY: There is still dialogue between the People's Republic and the United States about a possible meeting by the National Security Advisor -- possible trip. To my knowledge, there hasn't been any finalization of arrangements for that trip, and this -- there are a range of issues that would be a part of that dialogue, not just our concerns about proliferation or about the CTBT.
Q Mike, is there going to be a stepped-up federal effort on the black church arson cases?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's been testimony on the Hill what we are doing. There is in effect already stepped-up effort. It's very high priority for the administration -- the Department of Justice, ATF, others have been involved. It's a very tough investigation because each of these are separate events that have to be investigated separately and then investigators look to see if they see any type of linkages.
You all heard Duval Patrick testify as to what we know on this. You know the President intends to address this subject tomorrow. We are working very --
Q In his radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: In his radio address. We are working very cooperatively with local governments and police. We're also considering what we need to do for enforcement powers so Justice can move ahead with the investigation.
Q Is the President going to announce anything tomorrow, any different --
MR. MCCURRY: He intends to address it, and I hope you'll be interested in what he has to say tomorrow.
Q Mike, will there be any on that over here or any other place tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We might. We have a lot out there on the record as a result of the testimony that was given in Congress last week. We can check and see if there is some additional desire for that here. We will see here if there are folks who can be available.
Q Are you suggesting you might be asking for more enforcement powers than Justice already has?
MR. MCCURRY: We have said that Justice is open to that, as Duval testified last week.
Q Mike, the Wisconsin welfare waiver request to the President apparently would eliminate the guarantee for Medicaid. Did the President anticipate that he was going to get a request to do that, and will he be able to approve it as submitted?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not my understanding of the Wisconsin plan. I will have to check into that. I had not heard that about the plan. In fact, one of the attractive features of the plan was a guarantee of assistance for health care and child care for children who are going to have a parent or parents subject to the work requirement.
Q Yes, Mike. Could you tell us a little bit about the event at the Presidio on Sunday, what Clinton is going to talk about there. And he mentioned that he had a long-standing to visit there. How long has that commitment been standing?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I understand that the Presidio is going through, in a sense I guess, privatization, and there has been an ongoing effort related to that. There is also an environmental cleanup that is going on at the Presidio, and one of the things the President will look at when he's there on Sunday are some of the aspects of that clean-up project.
Q Is this an environmental clean-up from when it was a military post, or other --
MR. MCCURRY: I think it is. I think it's related to when it served as a military post, and this is part of the conversion process.
Q The question is how long has he had that date.
Q How long is this commitment been --
MR. MCCURRY: He has talked for a long time to people -- I think the National Park Service folks have been wanting to get him out there for a while. I'll have to check and see. I don't know when he first started talking about actually seeing that. But that's come up, I believe, in past times he's been to San Francisco. The people he's met with said this is really an interesting project underway here, you might want to check it out.
Q Is anyone from the White House contacting activists in the gay community there, trying to avoid confrontation?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had good contact with the Mayor's office. We've had through here, through our liaison office here, a great deal of outreach to national gay and lesbian organizations. I'm not aware of any direct contact with leaders in that community, in San Francisco, but we have met with national representatives and many organizations concerned about this issue, looking for ways in which they can continue to work that the President does together with that community to combat discrimination.
Q Mike, if Mayor Brown doesn't want the President to have this opportunity to stand up to gay activists, why would he have issued that warning publicly, which makes it a little hard for the President to back down, instead of privately, which might have given the President the option to rearrange his plans?
MR. MCCURRY: This would be a good question for the Mayor. The President has a date to go to a fundraising event that Senator Feinstein and her husband is hosting. He did have plans to do this additional stop at the Presidio and he's proceeding with the plans.
Q Can I follow up with just one question?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure.
Q Can you assure us that neither the White House, nor the Clinton campaign had anything to do with fomenting this planned protest or with having the Mayor make this public warning?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I can assure you on both counts we had nothing to do with that.
Q To try Brit's question another way, did the Mayor communicate his concerns with the White House in any way, or did he confine his advice giving to Herb Caen's column?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it appeared in a column in the San Francisco Chronicle about the same time that the Mayor had conversations with Mr. Panetta and John Emerson here on the White House staff. The Mayor made his concerns known; they talked by phone. And the Mayor reported much the same thing to the Chronicle.
Q Mike, some people are calling it another Sister Souljah.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, this is not hard to understand. The President has a fundamental belief about an issue which some members of the gay -- in fact, many members of the gay and lesbian community take a different point of view.
Q Nobody is questioning that, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: And that is bound to provoke some disagreement. As the same time, as the President said to you earlier today, he has worked hard to combat discrimination, worked hard with this community to advance an agenda that he believes is right, that respects the human rights of those in that community. And we would prefer to put a focus on the positive side of things where we've worked together.
Q The question, Mike, though, is whether this has been turned into some kind of election-year political opportunity. Nobody is questioning the President's --
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely not.
Q Mike, how much of the trip is the campaign paying for?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a complicated trip, Mark, and the stops along the way, because he's doing a variety of events -- I'd have to check and see. I think that, by and large, because they're political events, each stop along the way, it's most likely the travel costs in any event are probably all Clinton-Gore '96.
Q What are some of the other themes -- these crime themes that he's going to --
Q All of it, all of it?
Q On Sunday, what is that --
MR. MCCURRY: The FEC's interpretations now of regulations, when one part of a trip is political the travel costs are deemed 100 percent political, have to be absorbed by political expenditures. There are some associated event costs that can be official in certain circumstances. For example, when we were out in Santa Monica and met with Prime Minister Hashimoto, that is excepted from that particular rule. But as a general practice, political events make the entire travel for that portion of the trip political.
Q Does the President have an appointment with King Hussein?
Q Can we just --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me go back to the question just generally about the trip. The general theme of the President's upcoming trip to the West is how America can best meet challenges that families will face in the 21st century, doing so consistent with values that are important to the American people. In a variety of ways we're looking at, along the way during this trip, ways in which we're protecting kids from violence in their communities, looking at ways in which we can protect our borders from crime along border areas, particularly when we're in San Diego.
He'll be, in the case of Albuquerque, actually seeing positive impacts of some of the things you've heard the President talk about before -- school uniforms, curfews, things that make life safer for America's children. There will be heavy stress during the trip on families, on things that families can do to pull together, things that families can do to advance economically to look ahead to the 21st century -- all consistent with the things the President has outlined as he outlines his agenda of challenges that we face looking ahead to the 21st century.
Q Is he going to the border then in San Diego?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll be in San Diego -- he won't be at the border, but talking a lot about relations along the border and things that we can do to protect our borders, and also reduce incidents of crime, particularly in southern California.
Q I'm a little bit confused on that. Is the trip to Las Vegas, the first stop, to look at this youth facility center there, is that political, paid by the campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: The travel to and from and onward from that will be political. That's the way it works.
Q -- in Las Vegas?
MR. MCCURRY: Because there is a fundraiser that day in Las Vegas. I think then you can do like setting up that event when he goes to the juvenile justice center can be a portion.
Q So when we're in San Francisco he might be able to confine the costs to the campaign to just the leg that took him from Las Vegas to San Francisco, right?
MR. MCCURRY: If there is -- I think the new way the rules -- I mean, I can check on this and get a better explanation, but the new way it works is if there is one political event on the calendar, then all the travel associated with getting to and from that location is political.
Q Even from Washington, or somewhere he would be on official duties?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that's -- I think you have to go back and recalculate what would have been the cost if you had taken the trip --
Q Without the political event.
MR. MCCURRY: -- independently, without the political event, to and from.
Q Steve Wynn of Las Vegas, having originally been a Democrat, then getting mad at the President in '94 and helping Bob Dole raise hundreds of thousands dollars last year, played golf with the President recently -- now, is he back on board with the Democrats? Is he going to be at this Las Vegas --
MR. MCCURRY: I think he is going to be at this event, has been an important part of its projected success.
Q Mike, not to waste time, but it's only the incremental travel costs of the aides and the people like that. It's not the ongoing total cost of Air Force One and moving the President around, which is not billed as political travel because the ruling is that that shouldn't be held against the President that he happens to have to have Air Force One and all that stuff, right?
MR. MCCURRY: There are people who are deemed to be official travelers, the medical unit, some of the service personnel, some of the people who would have to be with the President whether he was doing an official event or a political event, the taxpayers do pay for that. But they'd have to pay for that no matter where the President went. But the cost of those who are deemed non-official travelers have to then be reimbursed by Clinton-Gore '96.
Q But that's about the only part of the expense of the trip.
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. There's no way you would ever say the complete cost is reimbursed -- that that's been true of every President who has run for reelection.
Q So what you really do is you pay for Emerson's hotel room, you pay for Marsh Hale's hotel room, you pay for --
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And the travel -- the pro-rated cost of the air travel.
Q -- cost of the plane or any of that stuff?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's a portion of the cost of the plane, but we pay a portion of it.
Q The campaign doesn't pay your travel, for example, because you are deemed --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q They do?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe they do -- the last time I checked.
Q You would travel with him whether it was official or unofficial. Why --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have a category -- they made a category of people who they deem official travelers and non-official travelers and I get reimbursed by the campaign, is my understanding.
Q Mike, does the President have any misgivings about accepting money on behalf of the DNC from the gambling industry, which a lot of people consider a vice?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that's an important part of the economy of the state of Nevada, to be sure. And it is also an important part of economies elsewhere around the country in which legalized gambling is allowed. The President also simultaneously is in favor of a commission to look at what some of the effects of legalized gambling are. It's sometimes said that within the industry they're not wild about that particular idea, but that is an industry that is an important part of the commercial and economic success of the state of Nevada, to be sure, and provides numerous economic opportunities and jobs in that state.
Q Is he for a commission with --
He favors a commission that's got the tools necessary to do the work. In this case, this commission is going to look at the effects of legalized gambling. And commissions like this very often have the tool, the subpoena available.
Q Is that a congressional committee or is that -- is he setting that up?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's a -- there is legislation pending in Congress that would establish an independent commission that would look at the effects of legalized gambling so we understand better --I think everyone knows there's been a real increase in legalized gambling in communities and states around the country and a lot of people believe that that ought to be looked at -- what are the social costs, what are the economic costs of that. And the President, as you know, supports the creation of that commission.
Q What did the President do to get Steve Wynn as a golf-playing friend? Did he say, no more proposals to tax the gambling --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, presumably, the one thing he did was preside over a strong and growing economy that's now produced 9.7 million jobs with low rates of inflation, low rates of unemployment. He has been, since the enactment of the President's economic program in 1993, a tireless advocate of --
Q All this and heaven, too.
Q Greener grass, higher trees, better weather.
MR. MCCURRY: But, he's done a good job as President. That's the short answer.
Q On the Dole thing, the Dole possible meeting --
MR. MCCURRY: Dole thing -- which Dole thing?
Q Has there been an invitation to the Senator before he leaves office or after? Everybody is dancing around on this. Why?
MR. MCCURRY: Because it's like not complicated, Helen. It's like maybe they should -- the President said, well, maybe we can get together before he leaves. The President is going out of town --
Q But wouldn't you send an invitation if you wanted to see someone --
Q Has Dole stiffed the President? I mean, I think that's the --
Q Has the President stiffed Dole?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not. And the President --
Q Are they both stiffs? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The President couldn't have been anything more than gracious in the comments he made earlier.
Q Nobody is saying that, but what is he --
MR. MCCURRY: -- and maybe this a guy -- say, let's get together for a cup of coffee later, give me a call. Okay.
Q And you don't really mean it?
MR. MCCURRY: No. They'd love to have a cup of coffee with her. (Laughter.)
Q The President said let's do lunch, have your girl call my girl? I can't believe that.
MR. MCCURRY: No, he didn't. There was a discussion maybe they could get together when the President was on the Hill. That couldn't work out on Wednesday. They thought maybe we'd try to do it again, but now, of course, the President is going out of town until Tuesday, so I don't know whether it will be worked out.
Q You mean it was just a nicety, it's just like the say, let's have lunch, but you don't really mean it?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a nicety. It was sort of, let's get together and say hello.
Q What was he talking about when he said about indirect --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry. You're all trying Brit's patience. Let's move on to another subject. (Laughter.)
Q But not yours, right?
Q Mike, to what was the President referring when he said there were indirect communications?
MR. MCCURRY: He just meant that John Hilley had talked to Sheila Burke, that's all.
Q What is the schedule for the rest of the week?
MR. MCCURRY: Schedule for the rest of the week. When he comes back in --
Q You're talking about next week?
MR. MCCURRY: Next week. We're looking ahead to next week. The President returns very late Tuesday night. On Wednesday we will be holding the annual EU-U.S. Summit, so the President will be meeting with Prime Minister Prodi and with President Santer of the European Commission. They will have discussions, a lot of discussions are common on the agenda of the EU and the U.S. when they meet together in this format. The President may also be doing a little more to talk about the problem of teen pregnancy that day and how we can prevent teen pregnancy. We have an ongoing interest in what we can do to make sure that kids lead safe, responsible lives, and that we do everything we can to make sure we reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. You might hear the President talk about that more.
Q With Dr. Foster perhaps?
MR. MCCURRY: On Thursday -- could be. On Thursday the President has a state visit with the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. He is looking forward to that. That will be a critical moments as the all-party talks commence Monday.
Q Is there a state dinner that night?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will also -- the President will be seeing -- are we putting this out? Is this ready to put out now?
Q King Hussein?
MR. MCCURRY: What's the question? We're ready to announce that. It's on this list right here.
Q There is a state dinner Thursday that has not been announced?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, no, no, no. The state dinner with Mary Robinson.
Q King Hussein.
MR. MCCURRY: Whether or not the King visits on Thursday is apparently a question.
Q On Marty's question about Steve Wynn switching from Dole to Clinton. To a cynic, it sure could look like he's double-dipping or following the polls. Does the President have any skepticism about these rich people who give to both candidates?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, I missed it. What were you asking me about? About Dole's pension?
Q Steve Wynn.
MR. MCCURRY: No, what did you ask about? I missed the question, I'm sorry. I was looking at this.
Q Marty's question about Wynn going from Dole to Clinton. I mean, it sure looks like he is double-dipping and following the polls. Does the President --
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Knoller suggested maybe he was covering a bet. I don't know.
Q Does the President approach these people with any skepticism who give money to both candidates and try to sidle up to both sides?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President appreciates support that he can get. He works hard to get support for the Democratic Party. This is obviously a Democratic Party event. And he understands some people are supportive of political parties and their work, and sometimes they support both parties. Sometimes they support only one party. Sometimes they support one party more than the other. He tries to build support for the party.
Q I'd like to follow this question. Some of these people give $100,000 to each party. The explanation that they believe in the work of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party doesn't seem to hold water. The only thing they seem to be buying is access. I think that's what John was getting to. Does the President really think that he ought to -- that the DNC ought to be taking soft money donations that big from people who give to both sides? What is the other motivation other than buying access to the President?
MR. MCCURRY: The President supports contributions to the party governed by the regulations, the disclosure requirements -- those things that you know that he favors. He also is an ardent advocate of campaign finance reform. And we've been pressing very hard to get things like the McCain-Feingold bill passed.
At the same time, people who are supportive of political life in this country are often called upon to help provide the financial resources so that we can continue that kind of activity. We do not have a system in this country that is entirely publicly financed. So parties do need to have money to do their work, to take the arguments of their candidates to the people. And the most important principle is full disclosure so that the American people can then make their own judgments about who's giving to whom.
Q Mike, I understand that, but in '92 the President ran specifically against soft money, said he would end the practice. And he specifically singled out these fat cats that John and I are talking about. Now, from this podium for three years we've heard the explanation, look, we can't disarm unilaterally. That has some resonance to it. But the President certainly could refuse money from people who also gave $100,000 to the Republicans without doing his cause great harm and he could set an example.
MR. MCCURRY: What public interest does that serve then, because if someone is giving equally to both parties because of their commitment to advancing the political life of the nation through the institution of the political parties, that might be a comment about the stability of institutions that lend some coherence to the political dynamic of the nation.
Q Why wouldn't that apply to any fat cat giving to any party?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe some people who give money to the political parties do it for exactly that reason. In fact, I know people who do that because I've had conversation with them.
Q Well, then why doesn't everybody get the benefit of the doubt or is it -- how do you choose which ones are the fat cats that the President chooses to criticize and which ones are not?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you look what their motives and what their interests are and what they're --
Q How do you know that, do you have mind-readers that do that for you?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, many of them -- those that have got activity that they pursue in legislative fora and others you can tell.
Q Legislation that you like as opposed to legislation you don't like?
MR. MCCURRY: No, people I'm just -- how do you know what they pursue, what kind of --
Q How do you know what their motivation actually is?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, most of these cases, as you know, you talk to them, you persuade them to be supportive of the party, you understand what their interests are.
Q Well, does he take tobacco money? I mean, I don't know he's getting offered much, but does he have a policy that he would or wouldn't take money from the tobacco --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, we are not at war with the tobacco industry. We're trying to curb smoking among kids in this country. We've never suggested, for example, that that industry or people, farmers who make their livelihood on that ought to be run out of business, and some of those people are supportive of the President. Some of them do, indeed, give money to the President and to the Democratic Party.
Q So if it's the legal industry, he'll take it?
MR. MCCURRY: Look --
Q It's an honest question, I'm not trying to bait you. Are there places where he says, no, I don't want the money from those guys because I just don't like their agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to go check and see whether there are, in fact, cases like that. I'd have to go talk to people who raise our money. I can conceive that there would be situations like that.
We're a little far afield. Mr. Broder, yes, would you like to tether us back into reality for a minute?
Q Yes. How about Senator Dole's pension, Mike? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to comment on that.
Q Asked and answered.
MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered.
Q What about the rest of the week? You got as far as Thursday.
MR. MCCURRY: How about the rest of Friday? Let's take the rest of the day off, at this point. That's the -- the only other thing on Friday there would be -- the President's hosting an ethnic leadership day on Friday in which we've have a lot of folks who are active in some of America's ethnic communities will be here for a visit.
Yes, in the back.
Q When is the President expected to weigh in on North Korean food aid? Which way is he leaning and why?
MR. MCCURRY: You all know that the World Food Program yesterday issued a call to the international community for $43 million of assistance to deal with the devastating effects of famine in North Korea. The United States would like to pursue both the humanitarian interest in helping those who might be suffering consistent with our security interest.
The President does have a plan for responding to the request of the World Food Program. We're in active consultations with our close allies, the Japanese and the Republic of Korea. Now, After those consultations, working together with them and with other members of the international community, we'll be among those responding to the request from the World Food Program.
Q When will that announcement come, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: At an appropriate time.
Q We understand next week.
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't guarantee that it wouldn't be any sooner than that.
Q Is the $6 million figure in the ballpark?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want to speculate on figures. There's been some leakage on that issue. But I don't want to speculate on amounts until after we've had the consultations I've described.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. Happy weekend everyone.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:31 P.M. EDT